Membership Months: THUNK!theatre

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  • Up next: The Lost and Find at Magnetic North Theatre Festival
  • Recently: Far & Near & Here at undercurrents and The Lost and Find at subDevision

by Tony Adams

I think I may have gushed a bit, but these guys are just so awesome to hang with.

THUNK!Theatre formed after a series of run-ins between Geoff McBride and Karen Balcome… followed by an “art date.” For those not familiar, an art date is just as intimidating as a real date, if not more (terrifying). A meeting to see if—aesthetically—you will connect and relate. You try your best to be interesting yet remain honest. There’s a worthwhile idea that you could perhaps collaborate on a new project.

They clicked. And funny enough the work they create, I feel, has taken on similar qualities to a date: namely vulnerability. In THUNK! creations I feel there is a sense of risk, learning and discovery, and a hope of creating a connection to another.

I showed up at Geoff’s to find him and Karen in the midst of re-working their piece The Lost and Find, being presented next at Mag North. Notebooks sprawled out, coffee brewed, snacks served—this is their studio. It was like walking in on Einstein writing out his complex formulas. To me: genius in motion. To them it’s more like, “yeah, this is what we do.”

While talking about the “eco-system” that is Ottawa theatre, it is clear they are looking to better the whole rather than THUNK!’s piece. Geoff and Karen hold themselves accountable to a high level of quality. It would seem to me they’re creating work that is relevant rather than creating work to stay relevant­. And while this means that there may not be a multi-year operating grant in their future, they are quite content working project-to-project, speaking up and creating when it is important to them.

The way they work is no accident, but I don’t know if they realize how integrated it is in who they are as people and the work they make: the snacks sprawled out, the conversations they create, the chances they take, and the connections they make with themselves and others–they’re what what we crave in our everyday, and that’s reflected in every piece I have seen from THUNK!. Their work lies at the core of what it is to be human­– connection, indulgence, and discovery. Also, lists. They love making lists.

I’m willing to bet THUNK!theatre will be around for a long time, as Karen and Geoff’s artistic practice is so intertwined with who they are as people. I left feeling uplifted and inspired. I walked in with respect and curiosity and came out with admiration and a huge art crush on these two.

May and June are Membership Months. We’re checking in and catching up with as many new members as possible—as well as some who have been around before the first Ottawa Fringe Festival in 1997. If you’re a creator, know that the Ottawa Fringe is here to support your work year-round and want you to be a member, too. Visit for info.

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